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THE QUESTION

Do you have any recommendations for getting kids off screens? We were doing better in the summer but are starting to backslide again.

THE ANSWER

Between working from home and limited options for social interactions, many of us have turned to screens to keep kids occupied. In the beginning of the pandemic, I told parents, “We can all detox later.” I didn’t know we’d still be in the thick of it nine months later.

We do need to be compassionate with ourselves if we need to use the screen as an electronic babysitter or playmate. At the same time, there is an abundance of research that shows too much time in front of a screen is dangerous for kids’ physical, mental and social well-being. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that kids aged 2-5 get less than an hour a day. Kids ages 5-17 should be on screens for no more than 2 hours a day (including phone apps, TV and video games.)

So how to get them off screens?

Think life/screen balance. We all need time outside, time to move our bodies, time spent with other people and time to play and rest. Sit down with your children and figure out what you need to change for more balance. 

Model. Our children are watching us. Do we check our phones while they are talking to us? How many times a day do we pick up our phones without thinking about it? Have screen-free zones and times and clear guidelines about use. 

Let them be bored. I have worked with parents whose children literally have no idea what to do if they are not on a screen. It’s okay if your child is bored. Out of boredom come great ideas and creativity. Reducing screen use will take energy and effort from us, but it usually only takes a few days before kids start finding other things to do.

Good luck and remember: your kids will be fine and even better with limited screen use. Just a generation or two ago, screens barely existed. Screens have enriched our lives in many ways but it’s all about balance.

Read the rest of my answer at The Globe and Mail

Have a question? Email me: sarah@sarahrosensweet.com

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Sarah Rosensweet is a certified peaceful parenting coach, speaker, and educator. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 14, 17, and 20). Peaceful parenting is a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Sarah works one-on-one virtually with parents all over the world to help them go from frustrated and overwhelmed to, “We’ve got this!”

Read more at: www.sarahrosensweet.com

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